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Open Research Online The Open University s repository of research publications and other research outputs The behaviour of young children with social communication disorders during dyadic interaction with peers Journal Article How to cite: Murphy, Suzanne M.; Faulkner, Dorothy and Farley, Laura R. (). The behaviour of young children with social communication disorders during dyadic interaction with peers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Online First). For guidance on citations see FAQs. c Springer Science+Business Media New York Version: Accepted Manuscript Link(s) to article on publisher s website: Copyright and Moral Rights for the articles on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. For more information on Open Research Online s data policy on reuse of materials please consult the policies page. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology The behaviour of young children with social communication disorders during dyadic interaction with peers --Manuscript Draft-- Manuscript Number: Full Title: Article Type: Keywords: Corresponding Author: The behaviour of young children with social communication disorders during dyadic interaction with peers Original Research peer relations; pragmatic language; perspective-taking; social communication disorders; micro-analysis; Collaborative task Suzanne Murphy University of Bedfordshire Luton, UNITED KINGDOM Corresponding Author Secondary Information: Corresponding Author's Institution: University of Bedfordshire Corresponding Author's Secondary Institution: First Author: Suzanne Murphy First Author Secondary Information: Order of Authors: Suzanne Murphy Dorothy Faulkner, PhD Laura Farley, MSc Order of Authors Secondary Information: Abstract: Children with social communication disorders are known to experience more problematic peer relations than typically-developing children. However, detailed observation of their behaviour and communication during interaction with peers has not previously been undertaken. Micro-analytic observational methods were used to analyse the audio-taped interaction of children (N = 0) selected from mainstream schools (ages - years-old) on a computerised collaborative task. Comparisons were made between children with high- and low-pragmatic language skill as measured by the researcher-administered Test of Pragmatic Skills. Consistently with their pragmatic language scores, low-skilled children were found to use more irrelevant directives and irrelevant responses and were more likely to ignore other children's questions and requests than were high-skilled children. When high-skilled children worked with lowskilled children, as opposed to with other high-skilled children, they showed some sensitivity and adaptation to these children's difficulties; they used more directives, clarification, explained reasons for disagreements and provided more information. Although it appears that the high-skilled children could provide support for the lowskilled children, there was a cost in terms of the emotional tone of these interactions; when working with low-skilled children, the high-skilled children expressed considerably more negative feelings towards their partners than when they worked with another high-skilled child. In conclusion, observation of the interaction of high- and lowskilled children suggests promise for peer-assisted interventions and specifies which communicative behaviours could be targeted. However, care should be taken to manage the affective climate of these interactions for the benefit of all children involved. Powered by Editorial Manager and Preprint Manager from Aries Systems Corporation Title Page Murphy Faulkner Farley Title: The behaviour of young children with social communication disorders during dyadic interaction with peers Authors: Dr Suzanne M. Murphy, Dr Dorothy M. Faulkner and Ms Laura R. Farley.. Institute for Health Research, University of Bedfordshire, Putteridge Bury, Hitchin Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU LE. 0- Faculty of Education and Language Studies, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK AA.. Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Beech Close Resource Centre, Beech Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU SD. Acknowledgements: We wish to thank the pupils, teachers and parents of Bedford lower schools for their participation and Mr John Leary for technical design of the Maze Task. This study was funded in part by a grant from the Bedford Charity to the first author. *Manuscript Click here to view linked References SOCIAL COMMUNICATION DISORDER AND PEER COLLABORATION Children with impairments in social communication and language skills are known to experience difficulties with peer relationships. Ketelaars, Cuperus, Jansonius and Verhoeven (0) found that teachers rated these children as having more problems with peers and Conti-Ramsden and Botting (0) reported that they were at greater risk of being bullied than typically-developing children. Long-term outcomes for such children also suggest that dealing with social relationships is an on-going struggle. Whitehouse, Watt and Bishop (0) followed up a group of children diagnosed with developmental language disorders into young adulthood and found that, by comparison to a typically-developing group, they had markedly fewer friendships or romantic relationships. The aim of the present study was to observe children with different levels of language skill interacting together in a naturalistic context and by doing so to investigate their behavioural and conversational characteristics. There are indications that peer-assisted social skills interventions may be more effective than adult-led ones (e.g. Kasari, Rotheram-Fuller, Locke & Gulsrad, ). If this is indeed the case, then observing and understanding the behaviour of children with communicative impairments in interaction with their peers has important implications for the design of clinical and educational interventions. Adams et al. () have argued that there is considerable need to develop interventions targeting social communication disorders as these are currently under-diagnosed but are coming increasingly to the attention of clinicians. Children who experience difficulties with communication are a highly heterogeneous group encompassing a number of diagnostic categories and social communication profiles. Pragmatic language skill can be defined as the use of social contextual cues to understand a speaker s meaning and is a key communication skill for the attainment of social goals. Children experiencing difficulties with pragmatic language skill fall into three groups: Children diagnosed as having primary speech, language and communication needs, children with other conditions who experience communication problems as a secondary impairment and children whose language development has been limited by environmental causes, typically socioeconomic disadvantage (Lindsay, Dockrell, Desforges, Law & Peacy, 0). The first of these groups, those with primary communication difficulties includes children identified as having specific language impairment (SLI), pragmatic language impairment (PLI) or high-functioning forms of autism spectrum disorder. Exact diagnostic criteria to differentiate between these terms is still very much a matter of debate, but there appears to be growing consensus that these should be regarded as dimensional, overlapping conditions rather than discrete diagnoses (Adams et al., ; Bishop, 0; Norbury, Nash, Baird & Bishop, 0; Reisinger, Cornish & Fombonne, ). There are also indications that these diagnoses can be subject to change over time as children age and develop (Whitehouse et al., 0). SLI can impact a child s comprehension, grammar, phonology and other expressive and receptive language abilities. Children with PLI are differentiated from children with SLI by relatively intact syntax and phonology, but experience disproportionate difficulty with the use of language. They may show characteristics such as poor comprehension of non-literal language, difficulty with perspective-taking, unconnected speech, poor conversational turn-taking, limited application of inference and stereotyped phrases and intonation. Many of these characteristics are shared with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Proposed revisions for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-) include the addition of a new category entitled Social Communication Disorder which would encompass PLI and some children currently diagnosed with ASD. Social communication disorder would be differentiated from the new ASD category by the absence of repetitive behaviours and restrictive interests. In practice, considerable overlap between SLI, PLI and high-functioning ASD is found. Children with SLI often present with considerable deficits in pragmatic language as well as structural difficulties, suggesting that basic linguis- tic ability impacts on pragmatic language ability (Norbury et al., 0). Children with PLI also present with some difficulties in structural language, although these may be milder in severity than children with SLI. In the present study we did not attempt to differentiate children with SLI, PLI or higher-functioning forms of ASDs from each other, or from those who experience pragmatic language difficulties as a secondary impairment or through environmental causes. Our aim was to observe children experiencing difficulties with pragmatic language for any reason who were being educated in mainstream schools where they would be interacting with peers with superior pragmatic language skills on a daily basis. Although research specifically in the area of pragmatic language skill is relatively recent, indications are beginning to emerge that it is difficulties in the domain of pragmatic language that impact most on behaviour and social relationships, rather than more basic problems with structural language such as grammar and comprehension. For four-year-old children, Ketelaars et al. (0) reported that pragmatic language impairments were highly correlated with behavioural problems, whereas structural language difficulties were not. Whitehouse et al. (0), in their study of young adults reported that those who had received a diagnosis of PLI or high-functioning ASD as children experienced more difficulties with their social relationships than those with a diagnosis of SLI. Laws, Bates, Feuerstein, Mason- Apps and White () found that children attending language resource bases within mainstream schools were less accepted by peers than the children who did not attend these bases. Within this group, the children assessed as having more pragmatic difficulties received significantly more negative peer ratings. Bearing in mind these research findings and the possibilities for involving peers in social skills interventions, there are important questions to be asked about the nature of typical daily interactions of children with low-levels of pragmatic language skill. Some of the questions we considered productive to explore were: Are low-skilled children provided with use- ful model examples of good communication by high-skilled children to copy and learn from during exchanges? Are high-skilled children sensitive to the problems of low-skilled children and are they able and/or willing to modify their own communication accordingly to support low-skilled children? Finally, what is the emotional tone of such interactions? Do they tend to be characterised by positive or negative affect? Another question arises as to which context is best for observation of the behaviour of children with pragmatic language communication difficulties, we chose a computerised collaborative problem-solving task for a number of reasons. Computer games are commonly played together by children of this age. To solve problems together, children need planning, perspective-taking and communication abilities, all of which are likely to be difficult for children with low-pragmatic language skills. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine interactions between low- and high-skilled children in a joint problem-solving context. Research in the area of children s collaborative tasks provides findings on which to base predictions; this literature has established that certain kinds of communication are linked with successful collaboration and lead to good learning outcomes for the children involved (e.g., Joiner, Faulkner, Littleton & Miell, 00). During collaborative learning, productive relationships are characterised by conversation that incorporates effective questioning, explanation, clarification of ideas, direction, guidance and, particularly, constructive discussion of disagreements (Barron & Foot, ; Kruger, ). Collaboration between peer-rejected and -accepted children has also been observed (Markell & Asher, ; Murphy & Faulkner, 0) and between children adopting different roles during bullying behaviour (Murphy & Faulkner, ). Similarly, these studies found that successful performance on dyadic tasks was related to use of guidance statements, explanations, directions and discussed disagreements, and that rejected children and children who took part in bullying were less likely to use these forms of conversation than were peer-accepted children and those who did not participate in bullying. In the present study, micro-analytic observational methods were used to investigate interactions between children with high and low scores on measures of pragmatic language skill. The children were observed whilst working together in pairs on a collaborative task. Two types of dyad were organised: (a) Low-scoring children were paired with high-scoring children and these were compared with (b) Two high-scoring children working together. Based on previous findings, we predicted that:. The task performance of dyads with one low- (LP) and one high-pragmaticlanguage-test-scoring (HP) child will be inferior to that of dyads with two high-pragmaticlanguage-test-scoring (HP) children.. A lower proportion of conversational features (guidance, explanation, discussed disagreements etc.) associated with effective collaboration will be observed for LP children paired with HP children than for HP children paired with each other.. There will be differences between the verbal communication of the HP children in dyads with other HP children as opposed to the HP children paired with LP children. The HP children would adapt to, and be influenced by, partners of differing skill level. However, there are presently too few indicators in the current literature for us to be able to predict the direction of these differences. Method Overview of Study Method Children were identified as high-pragmatic-language-skilled (HP) or low-pragmaticlanguage-skilled (LP) by means of the Test of Pragmatic Skills (TPS, Shulman, ). A pool of children from mainstream schools was tested using the TPS, and from this, a sample comprising the highest- and lowest-scoring children were selected for the study. For the study, children were organized into one of two types of dyad to work on a collaborative computer task; the dyads comprised either a LP child with a HP partner, or two HP children partnering each other. The rationale for this design being that (a) the communicative behaviour of LP and HP could be compared under similar conditions i.e. when both have a HP partner and (b) the behaviour of HP children could be compared according to whether they were working with a HP or LP partner. A performance measure was taken to assess the children s success at solving the computer task and the children s conversation was audiorecorded. Differences in the interaction of the two types of dyad were then examined through the use of a micro-analytic verbal communication coding system devised specifically for the task and applied by blind raters. Participants A total of children from Year One classes in six U.K. schools were invited to participate. Children were recruited through active parental permission using an opt-in consent procedure, children s assent was also taken. A participation of rate of % was obtained, thus giving a total sample pool of children (% boys) aged between years 0 months and years months (M = years months, SD =. months). Ethnicity was % White,.% South Asian,.% Black African or Caribbean, % mixed and % other. Sampling Procedures A sample of children to participate in the study was selected from the main pool of children. Teachers were consulted about suitability; they recommended that children did not take part due to English not being their first language and of an insufficiently high standard. All remaining children were individually interviewed by the third author to administer the Test of Pragmatic Skills (TPS, Shulman, ) and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale (BPVS, Dunn, Dunn, Whetton, & Burley, ). Interviews took place in a quiet area of the school and lasted approximately minutes. In addition to these measures, teachers were also asked to complete the Child Communication Checklist- (CCC-, Bishop, 0) for all children scoring one standard deviation below the mean on the TPS i.e. for children. All teachers had known the children for at least months as recommended by the manual, the response rate was 00%. Selection Measures Test of pragmatic Skills. The Test of Pragmatic Skills (TPS, Shulman, ) has been devised to give a measure of pragmatic skill in relation to developmental norms in typically-developing children ages three- to eight-years-old. The TPS has been standardised on 0 children in USA with good test-retest reliability. It is an elicitation test assessing the child s use of different communicative functions in a standardised but natural setting, where test questions are embedded within an on-going conversation with guided play between an adult tester and the child. It is designed to assess the extent to which children select an appropriate message or interpretation in relation to communicative contexts (e.g. greeting, requesting, informing, rejecting, reasoning, closing conversation). With our pool of children, the TPS produced a range of scores from 0 to (M =.; SD =.) which were normally distributed. British Picture Vocabulary Scale (BPVS). The British Picture Vocabulary Scale II (BPVS II; Dunn et al., ) is a norm-referenced, standardised and widely-used assessment of receptive (spoken) vocabulary for Standard English for use with children ages years, 0 months to years, months. For our pool of children scores ranged from to (M =., SD =.) and were normally distributed, the BPVS is normed at 00. Child Communication Checklist- (CCC-). The Child Communication Checklist - (Bishop, 0) is designed to provide a measure of impairment in pragmatic language. Its primary purpose is to describe the patterns of impairment as opposed to the TPS which provides a measure of skill. The CCC- is not judged suitable for assessing variation among children who have average and above-average pragmatic skills (Bishop, 0) and was not used for selecting the study sample. The CCC- was used here to provide information on the nature of impairment in the children who had received low scores on the TPS. The CCC- has been validated on children in UK, children in Australia, plus clinical samples. Selection Procedures Children were selected for participation in the computer task on the basis of their TPS and BPVS scores. We required a group of pragmatic skill test low-scoring children (LP children), and a group of pragmatic skill test high-scoring children (HP children). Selection of pragmatic skill test low-scoring (LP) children. According to the TPS manual, the expected score for children between and years of age is, the mean for our sample was slightly lower than this at.. There were children whose scores fell one standard deviation below the mean and these were selected for participation in the study. All children were then rated
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